The use of near real-time optical techniques is emphasized for the measurement of mid-tropospheric aerosol over the Central Pacific. The primary focus is on measurement of the aerosol size distribution over the range of particle diameters from 0.15 to 5.0 microns that are essential for modeling CO2 backscatter values in support of the laser atmospheric wind sounder (LAWS) program. The measurement system employs a LAS-X (Laser Aerosol Spectrometer-PMS, Boulder, CO) with a custom 256 channel pulse height analyzer and software for detailed measurement and analysis of aerosol size distributions. A thermal preheater system (Thermo Optic Aerosol Descriminator (TOAD) conditions the aerosol in a manner that allows the discrimination of the size distribution of individual aerosol components such as sulfuric acid, sulfates and refractory species. This allows assessment of the relative contribution of each component to the BCO2 signal. This is necessary since the different components have different sources, exhibit independent variability and provide different BCO2 signals for a given mass and particle size. Field activities involve experiments designed to examine both temporal and spatial variability of these aerosol components from ground based and aircraft platforms.